Mid & East Antrim Council have agreed to establish a working group to consider the impact of the JTI factory closure, it has been revealed.
Discussion on the setting up of a ‘Task and Finish’ working group was held in ‘reserved matters, with press and public excluded, at Council’s Economic Growth and Development Committee last Monday in Larne.
However, a spokesperson for the local authority confirmed to The Times on Friday: “Council have agreed to establish a Working Group, made up of elected members, to consider options, including potential future use of the site.
“It would be the intention of Council to work with key stakeholders and partners, including MPs and MLAs, to discuss options moving forward,” the spokesperson added.
JTI Gallaher which employs about 870 staff will shut down completely by 2017.
The factory has been a major employer in Ballymena for decades, but last October, the firm began consultations on proposals to close its facilities in Northern Ireland and Belgium.
The firm said at that time its restructuring would be phased in, with factory closures completed between 2016 and 2018.
In a statement, JTI Gallaher said it was working in a challenging regulatory and operating environment and that it had “fought very hard” against plain packaging proposals in the UK, the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive 2 (TPD2) as well as the trade in smuggled cigarettes.
Earlier this year, JTI Gallaher turned down a trade union proposal aimed at saving about 500 jobs at the factory.
Unite had proposed turning the factory into a centre of excellence for pouch tobacco and cigar production, meaning about 370 redundancies.